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Words, Words, Words

Words, Words, Words is a short comedic play written by David Ives. The play is about three intelligent monkeys who are put in a cage together under the experimenting eye of a never seen Dr. Rosenbaum, who has the hypothesis: "Three monkeys hitting keys at random on typewriters for an infinite amount of time will almost surely produce Hamlet". The monkey characters confront and converse with each other in order to understand the purpose of the exercise put upon them.

Along with Sure Thing and The Philadelphia, "Words, Words, Words" is one of the one-acts which is almost always included in productions of All in the Timing. (Recent printings of All in the Timing include upwards of twenty separate plays, and so producers and directors are usually forced to pick and choose which to use.) The opportunities for blocking and the inherent physical comedy involved have made it very popular with both directors and actors.

The tone of the play can differ much from production to production, and generally will depend on the actor's (and director's) interpretation of the Swift character. Swift drives the action, with his rebellion to Dr. Rosenbaum and his experiment, with Milton acting as a friend/antagonist trying to convince Swift to go along with and use the system. (Swift: "Why are you so god-damned ready to justify the ways of Rosenbaum to the apes?") Kafka plays the naif, agreeing that the experiment is stupid, but hoping for a great reward if she succeeds. (Appropriately, as the play ends, it seems as though she might.)

The portrayal of Swift is always different, but generally falls into either tragic or comic territory, with equal resonance. If Swift's plans for revenge are portrayed comically, then they point out the folly of Hamlet's plan to ensnare the King, deepening the parody of Shakespeare's most celebrated work. If played dramatically (which requires some talent and quite a bit of passion, given the comedy of everything which has come before), the play leaves Swift as the tragic hero, a Cassandra figure unappreciated by his colleagues, going mad in captivity. In either case, Kafka ends the scene on a notion of hope.

The play is a parody of the infinite monkey theorem.

Milton is the most realistic of the three; he knows what has to be done and knows how to do it. The rough draft on his typewriter involves poetry from Paradise Lost written by John Milton in 1667.

Swift is ambitious and somewhat of a rebel. He figures out fantastic plans to get out of the cage and into the world, despite Milton's sarcastic and annoyed discouragement.

Kafka is the dreamer. She has managed to press one button on her typewriter, and has done so for twenty lines. She likes to put her two cents in, but rarely uses very big words. She eventually starts Hamlet.

Words, Words, Words premiered in January 1987, in the Manhattan Punch Line Theater of New York City. It starred Warren Keith as Milton, Christopher Fields as Swift, and Helen Greenberg as Kafka. In December 1993, it was combined with other plays such as Sure Thing and Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread in a production of All in the Timing at Primary Stages in New York City. Daniel Hagen played the role of Milton, Robert Stanton played Swift, and Nancy Opel played Kafka.

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